Australian researchers say consistent emerging evidence shows that fat could soon take its place as the sixth taste alongside sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami.
Russell Keast and Andrew Costanzo, researchers at the Sensory Science Group at Deakin University, say certain criteria must be met for fat to be considered a primary taste like these other tastes.
In a paper published in February in the journal Flavour, they say fat meets most of these criteria and that there is consistent emerging evidence that fat is the sixth primary taste.
“The existence of a sixth taste elicited by the digestive products of fat (fatty acids) is yet to be confirmed; however, a growing body of evidence from humans and other animal species provides support for this proposition,” the authors say.
“The next 5 to 10 years should reveal, conclusively, whether fat can be classified as the sixth taste, but no matter what, there appears to be a functional significance to oral chemosensing of fats.”
The authors also say fatty acids are the likely stimuli behind the fat taste, that the human tongue can detect the presence of fatty acids, and that the finding could have implications for health and obesity treatments.
“These data propose a direct role of the taste system in the consumption and preference of high-fat foods, which may be linked to the development of obesity given that differences in BMI have also been linked to oral fatty acid sensitivity.”